By Connie Ward
1) What made you decide to become a fiction writer?
I began to write fiction at age sixteen, when I ended my career as a piano prodigy. The immediate success I enjoyed as a writer is likely due to the fact that I was able to transfer all I’d learned about music (harmony and counterpoint, shape and form, rhythm and tone) to the service of words. For me, the keyboard of a piano and the keyboard of a laptop have the same function. Each type of fiction is composed in a major or minor key, with its own time signature, toward an aim of realizing my particular purpose. I’ve never studied fiction writing on a formal basis. My apprenticeship as a writer occurred publicly, and my development can be traced through the course of my published books. Recently, I’ve come full circle and begun to compose music as a soundtrack to my fiction. Extracts from these early compositions can be found on my Youtube channel.
2) What kind of stories do you write? And why?
My books are sometimes quite different one from the other; often readers have difficulty comprehending that the same author could have created any pair of given books. Some of my fiction, like The Indivisible Heart and the book that preceded it (The Laboratory of Love), is dark and disturbing. Other books are filled with symbols and fantasy and dream; others explore the richness of the human comedy in a more realistic, earthbound way. However different individual books might appear from each other, they share in common a search for the beauty that lies in both darkness and light, and they are all driven in one way or another by the forces of hunger and longing, and are fueled by a desire for love.
3) What do your family and friends think about your writing?
I have neither family nor friends. My books and music are the only children I create. My readers are all the friends I have, and I’m devoted wholly to them. They are enough; they are everything. I am continually strengthened and sustained by letters and email I receive from people who wish to express how much my books mean to them. It’s a constant surprise to discover how varied my audience is. It seems that younger people, at the stage of life when the world can appear confusing and troubling, are especially drawn to my work. Battle-scarred survivors of long, hard-fought campaigns waged in the service of love appear to be equally engaged by my imaginative world. My answer to all readers is: hold on, don’t give up, you’re not alone. The struggle for love is always worth it, even when every sign suggests that you have lost.
4) Where do you get your ideas?
The source of my fiction is the universal human experience. What does it mean to be alive in this world? How can we grapple with the mystery of our time on this planet? What keeps us apart and what connects us? These are some of the questions that concern me.
5) How do you write; do you plan everything out, or just write?
I work on several levels simultaneously. Part of the process involves tapping into and connecting with the subconscious; at the same time, I am highly alert to what I’m doing technically. I hover at an objective distance above my writing even while I’m immersed in its depths. I feel it’s important to remain suspended between these two states all the while. Go deep into darkness and dream yet also keep myself above and apart from it.
6) What makes The Indivisible Heart special to you?
Each of my books is important to me for itself. The particular significance of The Indivisible Heart lies in the way it completes an exploration of the darker aspects of love that was begun in previous books such as Birthmarks and The Laboratory of Love. With The Indivisible Heart, this exploration has perhaps been taken as far as it can, at least for now. I delayed writing the novel for quite a few years because I was frightened of what it suggested and because I realized I wasn’t ready to confront that fear or to explore it coherently. The implications of the finished book have been quite difficult for me to accept. It is my own violent death that’s recorded in these pages. The two years that followed completing the book are more or less lost to me, on a personal level, although I continued to write all the while. Possibly, I’m now writing fiction that brims with comedy in a reaction to the disturbing ramifications of The Indivisible Heart.
7) How much of yourself and of the people you know are in your characters?
I am in each of my characters, however unlike myself they might seem. I am an eighty-year-old woman and a child of ten. I’m a tattoo artist practicing his art deep within the souk, and I’m a boy selling his boys on Santa Monica Boulevard. When imagination is powered by emotion, it leads to empathy. We all have the same longings and fears, although each of us expresses those emotions in a unique way.
8) Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most? Do you have a favorite of this author(s)?
I’m quite unconcerned (and often unaware) whether an author is gay/lesbian or not. Brilliant writing transcends such definitions and refuses to be limited by them. In any case, I find that I read very little while I’m writing (which is constantly) because that experience satisfies my need for written language. I am inspired by silence and desert and the call of the imam from the mosque. I am empowered by the voice of the sea and by the voice of Maria Dolores Pradera. One writer whose work has impressed me is Patricia Highsmith.
9) Do you have any suggestions for new writers?
My advice would be to avoid creative-writing classes and writing groups. Learn by writing, not by talking about it. Spend three months at a time in a small, bare room far from home, preferably in a country where you know no one and where you don’t speak the language. Liberate yourself from Internet access; free yourself from all distractions; allow nothing to interfere with an extended experience of listening intently to the voice inside you. Your seemingly empty, confining cell will soon brim with riches and teem with treasure. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes or of taking chances. Risk everything on each page.
10) When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?
I am always writing, whether it’s fiction or music. The creation of art isn’t a draining act that requires me to seek diversion or replenishment. The act of creation is life-giving. The more I give of myself, the more I am renewed. I take superb care of the instrument that is my body in order to maximize the power of the spirit it contains. In every way, my physical self is a work of art whose creation has the same importance as any words, any music. Although I’m currently at work on my tenth book, it’s clear to me that I’m just beginning. I hope the Bold Strokes Books audience will follow my journey forward.